Matt and Tina Hughes saw potential in the dingy, yellow building on the corner of North Road and Highway 33 in Cloquet.
They had been talking about running their own business for years and waited for an opportunity. Matt grew up in Cloquet, but the couple did not plan on moving back to the area.
That changed when the Surplus Depot building went up for sale. Matt and Tina knew they had to look into it.
Surplus Depot had been located in the yellow building for about 30 years. In the 1960s-70s, it was home to Bystrom's Grocery store. The Hugheses decided the building was a diamond in the rough for their dream business and made the leap.
They purchased the property in 2017 and spent the next six months cleaning, painting and updating it. The couple lived in the Twin Cities area and made the trek up each weekend after working their full-time jobs. Their three children, family and friends pitched in to help.
Locals were curious when they saw the large dumpster out front of the well-known building.
“People stopped by when they saw us cleaning and asked what we were going to do,” Matt said.
They opened North Factor in August 2018 and almost immediately customers started walking in.
“The first ATV was brought in for service one hour after we opened the door,” Matt said.
They sell, service and repair power sports machines such as ATVs, snowmobiles, snowblowers and more. They also sell accessories, such as plows.
Matt, 42, does the mechanical work, and Tina, 40, manages the front desk and the books. The beautiful oak countertop was made by Matt's father from a tree on his property.
The Hugheses originally planned to use the large front room as a showroom for new and used ATVs, go-carts and other small engine machines.
However, the demand for service and repairs has kept the couple busier than they expected, so the area currently holds ATVs waiting for servicing or repairs.
Matt said there is no slow season for their business. In the summer, he works on lawnmowers, ATVs and golf carts. In the winter, he has snowblowers, ATVs and snowmobiles lined up. They slowly work towards their original goal when they can.
In the beginning, Matt was spending many long days and nights working to keep up with the demand, so he and Tina decided to hire a mechanic to help out. They are currently working on hiring another.
Travis Gustafson had driven by the shop several times and decided to bring his snowblower there for repairs when it started having problems after the snowstorm in November.
“I dropped my snowblower off, and they said they would let me know when it was done,” Gustafson said. “I got very lucky on the turnaround time. They did a great job and it’s very nice to have a great, small, family-owned business in town.”
The Hugheses advise customers to call in advance to get on a waiting list for service or repairs. When it gets close to their name, Tina will contact them to drop off their machines.